Comprehensive plan or commie plot?

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This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I address some of the concerns raised by members of OK-SAFE (Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise) about PLANiTULSA, the process for developing Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years, and New Urbanism in a column with the title, "Comprehensive Plan or Commie Plot." I also suggest ways that the City Planning Department and the Fregonese Associates team could allay the reasonable concerns that have been expressed about process and transparency.

In the column, I point out two fundamental fallacies at the root of the fears being expressed by groups like OK-SAFE about New Urbanism and about PLANiTULSA. The first is the idea that using the same terminology as an organization (e.g., the United Nations) makes one a minion or a dupe of the organization, totally in line with that group's agenda. That's like the liberal accusation that because we conservatives support states' rights and the 10th Amendment, we are therefore in full agreement with the segregationists who used states' rights to enable racial discrimination.

On OK-SAFE's page about PLANiTULSA and sustainable development, an excerpt from one of my columns about the streets package is headed, "Michael Bates argues Sustainable Development Concepts." Here's the excerpt they published, with their emphasis added:

But taking care of what we have is a more pressing need than building more to take care of. Street widening ought to be considered in connection with matters of urban design and public transit which could reduce the need for wider streets. South Tulsa traffic isn't snarled just because the roads are narrow. Zoning segregates retail from residential, so that every shopping trip requires several miles of driving.

The development patterns so beloved of suburbanites -- cul-de-sacs, residential collector streets, gated communities -- funnels traffic into bottlenecks. The lack of through-residential streets forces local traffic onto arterials. Midtown's
grid disperses traffic efficiently across multiple paths.

In Midtown, you can use neighborhood streets to avoid making a left-hand turn onto or off of an arterial. That's not possible in most of south Tulsa, and nasty old left-turners are a prime cause of traffic delays down south.

Homeowners in south Tulsa have chosen the area's amenities over convenience and ease of travel. Before all of us spend hundreds of millions on street widening in their part of town, south Tulsans should be willing to accept some adjustments to their lifestyle, which may include putting public streets through their gated communities, building mid mile minor arterials (think 15th or Utica in midtown), and allowing neighborhood-scale retail development to connect directly to residential areas.

Fixing what's wrong with south Tulsa is a complex issue, and what to fund ought to be addressed as part of the new Comprehensive Plan.

Note that I don't refer to sustainability anywhere in what I wrote. I'm not saying anything about global warming (and I don't believe in anthropogenic climate change) or even about energy conservation. I'm writing about the impact of development patterns (largely dictated by our zoning code and subdivision regulations) on the carrying capacity of our street network. My observations on the effect of development patterns on street capacity are common sense, and I'd ask the OK-SAFE folks to tell me where those observations are incorrect. It's a simple matter of traffic engineering. The dense grid of streets and half-mile grid of arterials and collector streets in Tulsa's older neighborhoods are far more efficient at dispersing traffic than the tree-like street systems of south Tulsa subdivisions.

Surely fiscal conservatives shouldn't support the idea of developers shifting the cost of their preferred development style onto the rest of us. South Tulsans have decided that the advantages of their chosen place to live outweigh the disadvantages. Why should they expect the other 90% of the city to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to ease their self-selected traffic problems?

(Of course, in the eyes of some of the OK-SAFE leaders, even though I'm largely in agreement with them on their core issues -- as I note in my column -- I'm already suspect because I think we ought to be in Iraq and ought to win in Iraq, I think we ought to destroy Islamist terror organizations wherever they are, I support whatever Israel wants to do to stop Palestinian terrorists from blowing up my friends' children, and I don't want to see the Republican Party taken over by those who disagree with me on those points.)

The second fallacy is the apparent belief of PLANiTULSA critics that "we currently enjoy untrammeled, unregulated property rights, that our development pattern is the purely the result of market forces, and that this new comprehensive plan is an unprecedented threat to our God-given right to develop our property as we see fit." In the column, I review the roots of the comprehensive plan and zoning code under which we currently live and list some of the governmental regulations and financial incentives that have shaped development patterns over the last half-century.

Some supplemental links:

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3 Comments

The A Team said:

The simple solution would be to require a public vote to approve the Comp Plan Update, instead of simply requiring Council/Mayoral approval for the adoption and implementation of the Comp Plan Update. The public justifiably does not trust our local government. I believe this is the only way to ensure that the plan does have the support of the public and is the best safeguard against special interests dominating, co-opting, corrupting, subverting and perverting the comp plan update because ultimately it would have to pass the smell test with the public.

Paul Tay said:

Oh, commie plot, fo' shure. Only the usual suspects from the "well-intentioned" oligarchy shows up.

The rest of us who didn't show for whatever reason will feel left out once again.

In Bogota, Columbia, it’s the ciclovia. http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/ciclovia/

Portland, Oregon calls it Sunday Parkways. http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/ 06/25/streetfilms-portlands-sunday-parkways/

New York City says Summer Streets. http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/summer-streets-2008-nyc/

Instead of confining PlaniTulsa to the confines of four walls,

1) Reserve 26 miles of City streets for non-motorized travel on the First Sunday of every month from May to September.

2) Invite corporate charities to fund the closure. Bring in farmers’ markets. Encourage street vending, swap meets, flea markets, and garage sales. Collect sales taxes.

3) Intersperse interactive planning charrettes along the route focusing on various community issues.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 17, 2008 3:57 PM.

Understanding White City's point of view was the previous entry in this blog.

City fires back on county jail negotiations is the next entry in this blog.

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